Rebecca John arguing and winning for Priya Ramani against MJ Akbar, has been a monumental win for women across the country. Lawyers like Rebecca have been trailblazers for the upcoming generations, fighting for justice, despite the consequences. Here is a list of female lawyers from across the country who have inspired us with their journey:
1. Vrinda Grover
This lawyer, researcher and human rights activist was named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in 2013. She has embodied victims in the Soni Sori rape case and the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots. She was also prominent in the drafting of the POCSO Act 2012, Criminal Law Amendment of 2013, and the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010.
2. Meenakshi Arora
Meenakshi is Senior Counsel with a practice of over 30 years before the Supreme Court of India. In 2013, the Supreme Court designated her as a senior advocate becoming only the fifth woman to be so titled. She was one the members of the drafting committee for The Gender Sensitisation & Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), Regulations, 2013, to protect and provide grievance redressal to women lawyers from sexual harassment at the Supreme Court.
3. Indira Jaising
This 81-year-old badass lawyer ranked 20th in the list of 50 Greatest Leaders of the World by Fortune magazine in 2018. She has argued many noteworthy cases including the Mary Roy’s case, which led to the grant of equal inheritance rights for Syrian Christian women in Kerala and the case of Rupan Deol Bajaj, the IAS officer who had prosecuted KPS Gill for outraging her modesty. Her legal activism includes cases fighting against of discrimination against women, the Muslim Personal Law, child labour and several domestic violence cases.
4. Pinky Anand
A politician and a lawyer, she was designated as a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India till May 2020. She also served as an Additional Solicitor General of India at the Supreme Court of India and was the Vice President of Bar Association of India. She is the recipient of the French National Order of Merit by President of the French Republic and has received several awards for excellence in law including FICCI and Bharat Nirman. Her noteworthy cases include representing the Government of France in the famous case of the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau against genetically modified food in India. And representing actor Kushboo for her constitutional right of freedom and expression, quashing 21 cases of defamation.
5. Karuna Nundy
An advocate at the Supreme Court of India, and international human rights lawyer. Her noteworthy cases include representing the Bhopal Gas survivors in Supreme Court and getting them better healthcare systems. She also contributed in framing of the anti-rape bill after the Nirbhaya Delhi gang rape and is a part of a UK panel to support media freedom across the world.
6. Flavia Agnes
A renowned Indian women’s rights lawyer with expertise in marital, divorce and property law and has been a practicing lawyer at the Mumbai High Court since 1988. She currently advises the Ministry of Women and Child Development in Maharashtra. With Madhushree Dutta, she co-founded MAJLIS, “a legal and cultural resource centre” that campaigns for and provides legal representation for women on issues of matrimonial rights, child custody etc. Since its inception in 1990, MAJLIS has provided legal services for 50,000 women, many of them destitute. Flavia has said that her own experience with domestic violence inspired her to become a women’s rights lawyer.
7. Meenakshi Lekhi
Meenakshi is a Supreme Court lawyer, Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha from New Delhi constituency and the national spokesperson of BJP. She was also a part of drafting bills like ‘Women’s Reservation Bill’ and ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill’, the latter was passed by the Parliament.
8. Zia Mody
A corporate attorney, specialising in securities law, corporate merger and acquisition law, and private equity, Zia also founded her own corporate law firm, AZB and Partners – one of India’s leading law firms. She is the daughter of Soli Sorabjee, a former Attorney General of India. She ranked 1 in the most powerful women entrepreneurs by Fortune India in 2018 and 2019 and has worked with G.E., Tata Group, Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Group and the Vedanta Group.
9. Menaka Guruswamy
A Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India, she has been a part of the visiting faculty at Yale Law School, New York University School of Law and University of Toronto Faculty of Law. She played a significant role in a number of landmark cases before the Supreme Court, including the Section 377 case, the bureaucratic reforms case, the Augusta Westland bribery case, the Salwa Judum case, and the Right to Education case.
10. Arundhati Katju
She has been an independent litigator since 2011, and was part of the bench that decriminalised homosexuality in India last year. She and her partner, Menaka Guruswamy, were named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2019. She has also worked on other cases including the case of a trans man being illegally confined by his parents, the Augusta Westland bribery case, the 2G spectrum corruption case and the Jessica Lal murder case.
11. Kamini Jaiswal
12. Rebecca John
The first woman lawyer to become a senior advocate in the field of criminal law. She joined the profession in 1988 and is famous for being the defence lawyer to Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the 2008 Aarushi murder case, the families of victims of the 1987 Hashimpura massacre, and stockbroker Harshad Mehta. However, her latest momentous victory was while representing journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar over allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
13. Deepika Singh Rajawat
An advocate at Jammu and Kashmir High Court, she is famous for handling the Kathua case, the gang rape and murder of eight-year-old girl in 2018 which pinned her against powerful people. She was the first person who filed a written petition for Asifa’s case. The Indian Merchants Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ladies Wing awarded her the ‘Woman of the Year’ title her honesty and commitment. in June 2018.
14. Shobha Gupta
An advocate at the Supreme Court of India for 17 years, Shobha took the Bilkis Bano case to the highest court in the country and struck through it for over 16 years in a remarkable feat. She has also founded the Free Legal Aid Group (FLAG), an organisation that offers legal aid to juveniles who wound up on the wrong side of the law in 2017.
15. Misha, Ruby Ahuja & Shally Bhasin
These three lawyers who solved India’s biggest bankruptcy case – the protracted legal tangle between Essar Steel India Ltd. and ArcelorMittal, by the amount of debt owed and recovered – a whopping $5.6 billion. The three are now fighting to address a different problem: not enough women in the bar. According to stats, only 10% of India’s lawyers are women and these three headstrong lawyers are lobbying to change just that.
We hope this list gets longer over the years!